Like many of us, I was stunned to read that Chris Cornell was found dead in his Detroit hotel room, after a show. It is being investigated as a suicide. Everyone is shocked, everyone says what a sweet guy he was. And he was undeniably talented.
I started playing live in the Orange County clubs in the early 90s, when grunge ruled. I remember reading an LA Times interview from that era, where Chris Cornell said he saw Soundgarden as a bridge between classic bands like Zeppelin, Floyd, and Sabbath, and post-punk/goth bands like bauhaus, Joy Division, and The Cure. I think I formed a crush on him from that interview, because even though I didn’t sound a thing like him vocally, or write songs like him, that’s what I wanted to do, too. He clearly had his demons, but expressed them so beautifully, as in one of my favorite Soundgarden songs, “Fell On Black Days:”
I never met Chris Cornell. I never met Kurt Cobain, Andrew Wood, or Lane Staney, either. Four voices that helped define the grunge sound in the late 80s into the 90s, who articulated their demons in a way a whole generation could latch on to, who inspired me in those days. All of them gone now.
I wonder if he was thinking about the fact that May 18th would be the 37th anniversary of Ian Curtis of Joy Division’s suicide. Another influential young musician swallowed by his darkness.
Maybe Chris Cornell’s final influence can be to remind people that even if you’re successful, even if you’re loved by family and friends and masses, that won’t protect you from the darkness within. Hopefully rather than copy cat suicides (assuming that this is a suicide), he will inspire people feeling the same pull to get help. God knows his music helped me to feel on days when I felt numb. Maybe he has one final gift to give us, for when we fall on black days.
Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell. And thank you for the music.